There are many ways in which we are just like every other family out there, the ones with fewer children, the ones with no children. But, there are plenty of ways that we are unique from smaller families because of the sheer logistics of nine human beings and multiple pets abiding in the same cramped space. I am thankful for my home (with all of its needed repairs) and thankful for my children (with all of their needed attention). Don’t get me wrong. I am oh so thankful. However, I find myself doing things to survive and even thrive in this environment, in this season of bursting at the seams with children and appointments and chores and homeschool and schedules and activities. I guess you get the picture.
For instance, we recently had the plague run through the whole family, all nine of us, and then came back for seconds. You may decorate with whatnots. But, at such times I decorate with assorted medications and dosage cups all in a row. I changed our bedding and our toothbrushes. I was looking for any way to avoid another round of the crud and that is when it hit me. I knew what had to be done. I confiscated the toothpaste.
Well, first, I threw every tube I could find away and then bought two new tubes, but I kept possession of them. I now dispense the toothpaste onto Q-tips and use that to put it on each child’s toothbrush. How odd is that? I admit it is odd, I do. But, I’ll keep doing it because I’d rather be odd than sick with the plague.
When I am ‘serving’ meals I often look and sound like a cafeteria lady. “Next”, I bellow until no one else responds. One particular morning stands out. Determined to serve a healthy breakfast although short on time, I was dishing up steaming oatmeal. Proud of my ability to remember which child liked which toppings, I hastily moved through the assembly. When it was Jonathan’s turn I moved the brown sugar, choosing the white sugar so he would be satisfied to eat the oatmeal and not complain. I think he was 8 at the time.
When he reappeared with bowl in hand to report it didn’t taste right, I was frustrated. “You get yourself in there and eat that healthy oatmeal that I took time to make! I even used the white sugar!” I added for emphasis.
“But, Mom, it tastes bad. Just taste it.” he protested.
I snatched the bowl none too graciously and put a big spoonful in my mouth to prove my point. I’m not sure what expression came across my face as I gagged and spit and sputtered. But, I’m sure it wasn’t lovely. Salt!! I had generously poured white salt instead of white sugar onto his oatmeal. For months he eyed every bowl suspiciously.
With five of the seven children now teens (well, when youngest girl turns 13 next month), the dynamics of this household have sharply shifted. The hormones! The attitudes! The head wagging! The drama! The tattling!
One of my favorites is, “Mom! Denise hit me back!”
“What do you mean she hit you back?” I am searching for clarity.
“I hit her and she hit me back. You said no hitting back.”
“I also said no hitting in the first place.”
“Well, still, she hit me back and she should be in trouble.”
The three oldest boys are musicians and play the guitar, the drums and the piano. The other four try to equal their volume of noise in giggles and shouts and radios blaring. Some days I am searching for ear plugs that we wear when we are target shooting. Other days may find me dancing in the shower.
Then there is the matter of food. We have plenty, that’s not what I mean. It’s control of the food I’m talking about. On any given night I go into a public service announcement. “The clear dish with the blue top in the fridge is for Dad’s lunch tomorrow! Do not touch it! I repeat, do NOT touch it! There will be dire consequences if you touch it.” Or “These crackers are NOT up for grabs! They are for the meeting at church! Hands off the Triscuits!”
Growing boys never get full, did you know that? They never stop eating from 8-18. My mom told me there was only one way to survive five sons, learn to make good biscuits, seasoned rice and potatoes in every style imaginable. I listened to her wisdom and have done so. Even still, the smallest of the boys, only 9yo and small for his size gets out of bed EVERY single night to come and ask me what is for breakfast the next morning.
I’ve given completely up on finding matched pairs of socks. I just budget buying new packs on a regular basis. Oh, and matched dishes, glasses, cups as well, are a lost cause. What’s the point? After all, we must pick our battles and choose them wisely.
Sure, we have to schedule hot showers or take cold ones. Sure, we can’t quite all fit around the table. Sure, I’ve made a bedroom out of the used to be dining room. Sure, we have squabbles and sometimes want to stomp each other’s guts out. But, we can overlook being squished into this old house like sardines. We can overlook the condition of the living room furniture that I bought years ago at a yard sale. We can overlook being out of milk and not discovering it until you have already poured your cereal.
We can overlook a lot because, well, because that’s not what is important. Everyone of us, in this unique #XLfamily knows that when push comes to shove, we’ve got each other’s backs. We know that we are blessed to have each other and that there are many people longing for the chaos that we experience daily. We know that it is better to be together than alone. We know that the day will soon come that this old house will be quiet and neat and spacious. Well, until they starting bringing the grand kids over. Then, it will begin again.